"No cathedral aisles can rival  in colorful brilliancy these quiet, leafy paths."

A Catskill Reverie

by Charles B. Wells from June 1906 issue of 4 Track News

Looking down the clove

"In joining contrast lieth love's delight;" and what greater contrast to the ceaseless maddening din of the city's whirl than to stroll hatless and carefree along the leafy paths of mountainous woodland where ears are greeted with naught save Dame Nature's softest sounds; the gentle murmur in of breeze swept leaves, the mellow trickling of bubbling springs, the merry chirping of sweet-voiced birds; a subtle, satisfying sense of consoling calm, of perfect peace, invades the entire being, and in this forest dreamland of consciousness one forgets, as if it never been, the waging war of the world without.

Little wonder that here on the wooded slope of old High Peak, which throws its deepest shadows far down into the chasm of Kaaterskill Clove, Rip Van Winkle slept his score of years undisturbed, save in his dreams by Henry Hudson's merry, misshapen crew and whenever one of those entrancingly impressive thunderstorm angrily reverberates around and between these grim monsters one instinctively recalls that gruesome game of weird nine pins to which poor, fear-shaken rip was an unwilling witness.

A summer afternoon, on a typical Catskill cottage veranda

Rip's "Village of Falling Water", Palenville, lies at the base and from the summit, looking far out over a field of fleecy cloud-tipped peaks, the gilded dome of the capitol at Albany tosses back the sparkling sunlight which glistens in the silvery Hudson below as though seeking to detain it in its mad onward rush to the pathless sea.

Side-by-side on the southern border of this forest mountainland, rising over 4,000 ft. out of the valley beneath stand as sturdy, silent sentinels Round Top and High Peak -- the latter so graphically described by Cooper's Leatherstocking in "The Pioneers".

Ledge End Inn, in Twilight Park

 Half way up the northern slope of these twin guardians, from the rustic veranda of one of the artistic mountain home within the confines of the restricted residential districts of Sunset, Santa Cruz and Twilight parks, looking out over thick branching treetops, nature's color scheme presents a never-ceasing change. Beginning with early morn, looking eastward through the clove across the valley of the Hudson to where the sun gradually wheels his broad disk up from behind the bold skyline of the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, and throughout the midday, when the picturesque play of thick cumulus clouds presents unceasing attraction, as their softening shades slowly creep from peak to peak, until at fading eve, out through the glen westward appear, silhouetted against the sky, massive banks of blazing fires, a dazzling prelude to the mellow afterglow of the declining god as he passes out over the threshold of another day.

Interior of a Catskill artist's cottage

Nowhere does generous Nature more bountifuly bestow her wealth of color than upon these Maples, these Birches, and these Elms and in early September no cathedral aisles can rival in colorful brilliancy these quiet leafy paths as the sun glints through the variegated masses of orange, of scarlet and of purple. It is then when the forest puts on its' robe of brown and yellow, that Bliss Carman loves best to stray forth from his poet's retreat in Santa Cruz Park and, stroking his tawny mane, roam hatless through the silent shades, sing his summer songs as he listens to the babbling of the Brooks, to the tremor of the trees, to the autumnal call of the hermit-thrush; and often in the advancing night, as the cold, dark mountain silently throw their long, blue mantle's over the shrinking valleys, his muse finds mystic inspiration in the moaning whistles of the whippoorwill, in the boding cry of the elfish tree-toad, that tiny harbinger of approaching storm, in the startling hoot of the mournful screech-owl. Carman's verses on the Kaaterskill Clove show in what esteem he holds this place and what the attraction is which lures him here, season after season, to worship at this shrine.

Maude Adams

The muse of poetry is not the only one to be inspired here, for to ramble among these dreamy paths is to frequently stumble upon a painter, his easel beside a rock, with ever a pictorial vista to the fore; and the canvases of Thomas Cole, Gifford, and Wells Champney most delightfully represent the varying charms of Dame Nature, seen here in her happiest mood.

The folk of the stage have long since found this restful spot. Northward from the clove and near Onteora Park, the lazy smoke curling up through a thick elm cluster betrays the restful retreat of the dainty, artistic Maude Adams, where the trials and tribulations of Lady Babby and Peter Pan are all forgot, and even the Little Minister is barred from her summer gates. Here in these twisting force lanes, with no fear of curious eyes, she indulges her pent-up longing for a vigorous stride in a bracing atmosphere over a country road, and is frequently seen in golfing costume swinging along these mountain highways at a sturdy pace that would do credit to the most athletic of girls.

Julia Marlowe

Julia Marlowe, too, has a charming vacation home here, near Elka Park, where this delightful actress seeks release from the season's strain, and girds her nerves anew to meet the strenuous strife of the next campaign. It is here in these woods that she strengthens and mellows that wondrous voice with practice in the bracing air of a forest glade on Hunter Mountain, and where she develops those masterful conceptions of Shakespearean creations which are to compel our delight and admiration in the season to come. Here our Juliet has found the secret of youth and health.

It is the ideal life of rest and recuperation the one leaves here, where the drives and walks through these forest fastnesses are restful in the extreme, and the inhaled, invigorating mountain air rejuvenates the entire being, and healthfully restores those units of energy so essential in the stirring strife which awaits one in the surging whirlpool without.


Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery